Okalik speaks out at EU gathering in Brussels


Nunavut’s premier, Paul Okalik, spoke out about the impact of global warming in Nunavut at a meeting of European Union officials in Brussels, Belgium earlier this week.

He called on the European Union, Canada and other Arctic countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Okalik said global warming is threatening the Inuit way of life.

“We’re getting shorter winters, longer summers and it’s creating a bit of a real challenge,” Okalik told reporters after the meeting. “We have a strong hunting and fishing society and each spring and fall we see quite a bit of tragedies where people fall through the ice or lose their equipment.”

Okalik said the rise in temperatures is also affecting wildlife, and this causes hardship because the majority of Nunavut’s population depends on seals and other species such as polar bear and fish.

“This is our daily basic diet — we can’t grow potatoes… It’s something we require to continue to survive and it’s far more nutritious than what is imported from southern Canada,” Okalik said.

Canada’s annual east coast seal hunt started up last week in the face of criticism from aging celebrities such as ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and former starlet Brigitte Bardot. But Okalik defended the Inuit tradition of seal hunting, saying Inuit mainly hunt adult ring seals.

“It’s not those fluffy, cute things that you see on TV all the time, that these (conservation) groups use to try and kill the sealskin market… so we will continue to eat it, and assist our diets in living healthy… You do your thing and we will continue to do ours.”

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